As I mentioned previously, this year’s Western Writers of America convention (June 22-26) took place in Knoxville, Tennessee, the first time in the organization’s 57-year history that it was held east of the Mississippi River. To help us learn all about the region, there were various bus tours and panels, including visits to Cumberland Gap and Wilderness Road State Park, an impressive park in Virginia that is home to Historic Martin’s Station, an “outdoor living history museum featuring the most authentically reconstructed frontier fort in America.” It was built more than a decade ago by men who lived there for seven months, using only period (1775) tools, clothes, techniques, etc. Truly impressive. Here’s a link:

I was also fortunate enough to meet a variety of authors whose work I’ve read for years. During the mass book signing at the East Tennessee Historical Society Museum in downtown Knoxville, my neighbor happened to be Gary McCarthy, whose Derby Man novels I’ve long enjoyed. And I finally got to meet Marcus Pelegrimas–who writes his superb Westerns under the name Marcus Galloway (and urban horror—the “Skinners” series—under his own name). We’ve corresponded for a couple of years via email, and this convention provided us with the opportunity to sit and yammer for hours–about movies, writing, books, video games, movies, books, writing, and more. Like old hens clucking away. It was great fun.

And guess who else I was fortunate enough to meet…. Yep, Robert J. Randisi, creator and writer of the long-running and perpetually enjoyable “Gunsmith” series, the “Rat Pack Mysteries” series, and so many more. It was a genuine treat for me to meet this man, whose work I’ve long admired.

Matthew and Jennifer with John D. Nesbitt at the 2010 Spur Awards Banquet.

Another high point of the week, for me, was receiving my Spur Finalist award in the Short Fiction category at the Spur Finalist Luncheon on Friday. The story, “Half a Pig,” appears in the Express Westerns anthology, A Fistful of Legends. That I came in a (close?!) second to my good friend, writer John D. Nesbitt, made the achievement much more special. The certificate’s now framed on my office wall, and makes me type faster and with more emphasis. Look out, world!

Next year … Bismarck, North Dakota!